Bezzera Unica Espresso Machine Review
If you prefer an espresso or Americano to a latte or cappuccino, there’s no reason to drop the extra cash on a double-boiler espresso machine. But that doesn’t mean you need to skimp on quality. There’s the Bezzera Unica. This single-boiler espresso machine has a PID temperature control and E61 grouphead. So, it pulls the same delicious shots as models twice its price.
Tempted? Keep reading for a thorough review.
SUMMARY: The Bezzera Unica PID Espresso Machine
- Single-boiler prosumer espresso machine with PID and E61 grouphead
- Multidirectional steam wand with powerful steam
- Italian-made with the exceptional build quality and commercial-grade stainless-steel parts
I have been using this machine for 3 weeks now, and it makes consistently great espresso. It is the best value for a machine that comes with an E61 group and PID.– Anthony I., Customer
The Bezzera Unica Review
Bezzera Unica espresso machine is a perfect entry point into the prosumer espresso machine market. It features PID temperature settings and E61 grouphead (essential for beautiful espresso) but without the added expense of a dual boiler.
Of course, a machine like this with just one boiler comes with its pros and cons. Let’s find out what they are, so you’ll know if it’s the right Bezzera espresso machine for you.
Brewing Capacity – 3/5
The Bezzera Unica is known as a “single boiler dual-use” (SBDU) prosumer espresso machine. It is equipped with a vibration pump and a 0.5-liter copper boiler. This style of machine uses the same boiler for both brewing coffee and steaming milk. As a result, you can’t do both at the same time. Why? Because you need to wait for the boiler temperature to readjust in-between.
If you make a lot of milky drinks, this waiting time will be frustrating, and it can negatively affect the quality of your drink. But suppose you mostly drink pure espresso shots, Americanos, and only the occasional latte or cappuccino. In that case, an SBDU machine is a fantastic way to get prosumer quality at a reasonable price.
This model stands out from the crowd because its boiler uses a PID temperature control.
You will find this on only a few other single boiler machines, and the pricing of the Bezzera Unica puts it among the best value of the bunch. For example, the ECM Classika falls in the same category but comes with a higher price tag.
You can set both the steaming and brewing temperature with incredible accuracy, anywhere from 176℉ – 212℉. This level of control is essential for third-wave coffee enthusiasts looking to explore different origins and roast levels (1). It is now well known that brew temperature is a critical variable in coaxing the best flavors from other beans.
For example, extracting the fruity and floral notes from a quality light roast typically requires a higher brew temperature. While a rich dark roast does best with a slightly lower temperature. So if you love to experiment with different beans when you make espresso, the PID is a feature you’ll definitely appreciate.
On the front of the machine, you’ll find a classic commercial-grade chrome-plated brass E61 grouphead. E61 groups work by cycling hot water from the boiler through the group using a thermosiphon. This keeps the group hot and ensures the all-important brewing temperature stability. According to the pros, such stability is vital for reliable shots (2):
Even small fluctuations in water, group head, and steaming temperatures can cause varying extraction yields and flavor profiles.
How does it accomplish stability? You use a small manual lever on the side of the grouphead to start and stop the shot. That’s another nice feature of the E61 because you’re not just pushing a button. It’s a lovely tactile experience that makes this feel more like a commercial machine and less like an appliance.
It makes you feel like a real barista!
The front of the Bezzera Unica has a pressure gauge that measures boiler pressure. Not all manufacturers prioritize this feature. The more expensive heat exchanger Rocket Appartamento, for example, doesn’t have a pressure gauge. But I think it’s nice to monitor what’s happening as you pull a shot, making it easier to achieve consistent results.
What about user controls?
The small display in the upper right is used to adjust the brewing and steaming temperatures. It only has two buttons. So once you get the hang of accessing the settings, it’s super-easy. It’d be nice to see it double as a shot timer in a future iteration of this machine, but so far, that is not the case.
The OPV, which controls the pump pressure, is adjustable, which is always nice because it gives the user more control over brew pressure. Interestingly, this one comes from the factory set to 12 bars. So most users will find they want to lower it to 9 bars right away (3).
Milk Frothing – 3.5/5
The milk frothing is very good on the Bezzera Unica, especially for a machine at this price. Because of the boiler’s distinct narrow design and 1300 W heating element, plus the ability to set the PID to a high temperature, you can get an impressive amount of steam pressure if you’re so inclined.
The Unica has a multidirectional steam wand that comes with a nicely balanced two-hole tip. It uses a joystick control, which is ideal for quickly switching the steam on and off or producing short bursts. There is no separate hot water wand, but you can use the wand to dispense hot water for the tea or Americano drinkers in your home.
Build Quality – 4.5/5
Bezzera is one of the oldest Italian manufacturers of espresso machines, existing for well over a century (4). Italians are dead serious when it comes to espresso, so no company would survive that long without offering exceptional build quality.
The Unica may be one of the least expensive models in the Bezzera line-up. But it stills receives the same attention to detail and commercial-grade components as its big brothers. For instance, the exterior is a beautiful mirror-finish stainless steel.
Once pre-heated, the top surface serves as an effective passive cup warmer.
The joystick knob, E61 lever, and portafilter handle all come standard with black plastic. Still, you can upgrade them to rosewood for a small fee, which is a stunning aesthetic choice.
It’s quite a compact machine, which is not a huge surprise for an SBDU. At 17″ deep by 15″ tall by a slender 10″ wide, it’s an excellent option for smaller kitchens where a double boiler would take over space. That said, it’s no lightweight. It still weighs over 40 pounds, which is indicative of the quality of components inside.
You get both a single and dual spout portafilter for accessories, which is great at this price! A lot of brands will opt for a double spout only. You also get single-shot and double-shot baskets, as well as a blind filter for backflushing. Sadly, you get the typical cheap plastic tamper. Do yourself a favor and replace it with a heftier metal one ASAP.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
As a nice bonus for owners, the Unica was designed to be easy to maintain. It uses standard commercial parts, like the E61 grouphead, that make it easy to locate replacements or service centers. Plus, its build quality is such that you’re unlikely to be thinking about serious maintenance for many years anyway.
Inside, you’ll find that the layout of the components is simple enough. Thus, you can do a lot of basic maintenance by a reasonably handy user, with a few tools and the ability to Google.
You can’t plumb this machine to a water line.
But, its 3-liter removable water tank is one of the LARGEST in its class. However, I do have two small bones to pick about the water tank:
- It doesn’t come with any filter, so depending on the water quality in your area, you’ll probably end up having to descale more than you’d like. Consider using filtered and/or softened water in your Unica to prolong its life.
- There’s no way to know the water level in the tank from the outside of the machine. Nor is there any electronic warning as it runs low. These would be great updates to a future model.
The Unica is equipped with a 3-way solenoid valve, so cleaning out the filter basket after each shot is a piece of cake. Just a quick knock should remove the puck of used coffee grounds. The stainless steel drip tray is of good size, especially given the machine’s compact footprint, so you don’t need to worry about it overfilling, even when making back-to-back drinks.
Things we liked:
- E61 group and PID temperature control
- Impressive steam power for a small machine
- Excellent build quality and easy maintenance
- Adjustable OPV
Things we didn’t like:
- Can’t brew and steam simultaneously
- No way of knowing water level in the tank
Don’t Buy the Bezzera Unica If…
- You regularly make back-to-back milk drinks – This is the biggest reason to skip an SBDU machine. If lattes and cappuccinos are a regular occurrence, opt for a model that can steam milk and pull a shot simultaneously. You’ll pay a bit more, but it will be worth it to improve your workflow.
Bezzera makes a heat exchanger machine, the BZ10, and a beautiful double boiler, the Matrix DE, that are well worth a look. Or, for a real showpiece, check out our Bezzera Strega review for a heat exchanger machine with an eye-catching manual lever.
- The PID isn’t important to you – If you’re not interested in experimenting with different coffees, you can save a lot of money by buying a more basic single boiler. For example, Bezzera makes a model called the New Hobby that offers incredible bang for your buck. You can learn more about it in our Bezzera New Hobby espresso machine review.
- You’re looking at different brands – If you’re in the market for a prosumer espresso maker with a small footprint and want to expand your search beyond the Bezzera brand, we’ve reviewed a few other excellent options. The Rocket Appartamento and Lelit Mara are both super-compact HX machines. Or the ECM Classika is another one-boiler machine known for its best-in-class build quality.
The Bezzera Unica is a fantastic espresso machine, especially given its low price.
With the PID, E61 group, and Bezzera’s legendary build quality, you’re getting everything you need to pull the perfect shot. As long as you’re not looking to make a string of lattes, this compact model is going to serve you very well.
- Charles, S. (2021, May 11). The evolution of the Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/05/the-evolution-of-the-coffee-tasters-flavor-wheel/
- Nuova Simonelli. (2020, May 28). EXPERT: Why temperature matters when brewing espresso. Retrieved from https://www.coffeemagazine.co.za/blog/9/5906/expert-why-temperature-matters-when-brewing-espresso
- Kilbride, D. (2017, June 8). How Does Pressure Affect Espresso Quality? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2017/06/how-does-pressure-affect-espresso-quality/
- Meister, E. (2019, August 9). Coffee History: Luigi Bezzera, Inventor of the Espresso Machine. Retrieved from https://www.seriouseats.com/coffee-history-luigi-bezzera-inventor-of-the-espresso-machine